Over the last three days I’ve been hearing back from friends and neighbours in Nice, saying that they are ‘okay’ – alive and not among the injured – but deeply shaken. A few friends were at the fireworks with their partners, but had left minutes before the lorry attack, grateful that theirs was only a close call. Others had been on the Promenade earlier that evening for the music, one of them saying ‘the Prom will never be the same again.’ Sadly, I think she might be right.
According to the papers, the attacker started his drive on to the Promenade at Lenval, near the children’s hospital. Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know this part of the Prom as the place where every year a giant-sized Santa is put up for the children to see from across the road. It’s about a twenty-minute walk from our apartment. Now that part of the Prom will evoke visions of the white lorry turning and then careening on to the wide road lined with palm trees.
From there, heading towards the festivities the lorry took its first two victims at Magnan. That’s where David and I often go for coffees after walking some 25 minutes along the seaside. I wonder now if I will think about the dead every time I pass that spot or drink an espresso at the café across the way.
One friend shared with me a message from one of her French friends who was near the Negresco: “I’m shocked. I see the white truck in front of us. It was so quickly. Before me it run on a baby and after it don’t run of me because I took to the pergola. I just heard a woman who cried because the baby died. I have seen the baby [who] died. It was so horrible. And I can’t do nothing.” Will these images and words haunt our walks to and from the Negresco, where we listen and chat at the piano bar, or when we are across the road at Blue Beach, the meeting place of the British Association and the Society of Authors.
Now, when I go to the International Women’s Club coffee mornings at the Palais de la Mediterannee, will I always think of the twenty dead across the way or the lorry riddled with bullet holes at its doorstep?
Maybe the Promenade des Anglais will never be the same again after this vicious massacre for those of us who knew it well like an old friend. But that’s not to say that we can’t take it back in our own way. I’d like to think that our brains and hearts can process the horrors of what happened and at the same time enjoy what has always been there – the sea front and sunshine and all that they bring – walkers, joggers, cyclists, swimmers, buskers, tourists, posers and the occasional prostitute. Friends can change, but some things about them never change – it’s almost as if they are reminding us that they are still our friends.